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POV: 50 Years after Dallas, It’s Time for Gun Control

Grisly thread linking Kennedy and the Newtown and Washington Navy Yard massacres

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We have reached the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when a disturbed 24-year-old gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald changed the course of history with an Italian bolt-action rifle he had purchased by mail order. The commemoration of this tragic event looms especially large in light of the recent Washington Navy Yard shootings by Aaron Alexis, another delusional young man who bought a shotgun to brutally slay 12 innocent people.

Although nearly a half-century separates the two events, there are nevertheless eerie parallels. Both Oswald and Alexis were maladjusted veterans with a history of violent behavior. Oswald spent a large share of his youth skipping school and getting into fights with his classmates. “He was quick to anger,” a family member recalled. “He was vicious almost….He was just a bad kid.” As a marine stationed overseas in Japan, he alienated his superior officers by routinely refusing to follow their orders and by accidentally shooting himself with an unauthorized derringer pistol. “I dislike everybody,” Oswald said. He later gave serious thought to highjacking a passenger airliner to Cuba and to assassinating former vice president Richard Nixon. “I can’t take [this crazy behavior] all the time,” his wife told him.

Like Oswald, Alexis was an angry loner who had difficulty fitting in with others. “He was insecure,” family friend Gene Demby told the media. “He was like a barbershop conspiracy theorist, the kind of guy who believes he’s smarter than everybody else. He was also kind of like perpetually aggrieved.” This sense of persecution led Alexis to bizarrely complain to authorities that he was the victim of “some sort of microwave machine” operated by unknown individuals who were intent on preventing him from getting a good night’s sleep. He had earlier experienced an “anger-fueled blackout” that resulted in him shooting out the tires of a total stranger. “I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’ll never be able to ask him why,” his mother said. “Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do anyone harm, and for that I am glad.”

Ironically, Oswald today would find it just as easy as Alexis did to legally purchase a rifle or other firearm to unleash his pent-up fury on an unsuspecting world. And therein lies the rub.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., shooting rampages last year, little or nothing has been done by our elected representatives in our state capitals or in Washington to curb the access to guns of persons with severe mental disorders or violent dispositions. Indeed, a reasonable sort of person would think that there would be a comprehensive federal and state background check system already in place to avoid the kind of tragedies that have become all too commonplace in our society.

Think again. Thanks to a well-organized and monied gun lobby, which views any attempt to restrict the availability of pistols or semiautomatic weapons as an egregious violation of the Second Amendment, such legislation has as much chance of winning approval on Capitol Hill as the Chicago Cubs have of becoming World Series champions. Which is to say, slim to none. Even President Obama, who has spoken eloquently for the need for stronger gun control legislation, knows this effort may be the political equivalent of tilting at windmills. Still, he hasn’t entirely given up hope, as evidenced by his remarks at a memorial service for the Washington Navy Yard shooting victims. “Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal,” he said. “We cannot accept this.”

He’s right. If we are to avoid having any more mass killings, a concerted effort needs to be made by the American public to break the ever-widening cycle of violence and mayhem. That means phoning, emailing, or texting our local, state, and federal officials and telling them that their current do-nothing approach on this important national issue is no longer acceptable.

Here are some suggestions on what can be done:

  • ŸA mandatory federal and state background check for all potential gun owners.
  • ŸA revival of the Brady Bill, which banned assault weapons.
  • ŸNew federal, state, and local tax levies on the sales of guns and ammunition.
  • ŸThe  elimination of multiround ammunition clips.

I know many gun owners may not be happy with my suggestions, but the last time I checked, the Second Amendment called for a well-regulated militia, not for providing deranged individuals a license to kill.

Thomas Whalen, a College of General Studies associate professor of social science and the author of A Higher Purpose: Profiles in Presidential Courage (Ivan R. Dee, 2007), and the upcoming JFK and His Enemies: A Portrait of Power (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), can be reached at tjw64@bu.edu.

“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact Rich Barlow at barlowr@bu.edu

42 Comments

42 Comments on POV: 50 Years after Dallas, It’s Time for Gun Control

  • Feltre on 11.22.2013 at 1:42 am

    1. The weapons used in the Aurora, Newtown and DC shootings were all purchased after a NICS (Federal) background check had been passed.
    2. The Brady bill had no demonstrable effect on gun violence.
    3. The US Supreme Court differs with your opinion on the 2nd amendment. Read the Heller decision.

    Finally, was this piece written by a real professor or by Otto, who famously said: “No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”?

  • Eric Blair on 11.22.2013 at 5:40 am

    no.

    one of the more interesting aspects of contemporary life has been our collective view that we should all be safe above all else (think of this same argument in the context of the NSA-Snowden issue; where we are asked to sacrifice civil liberties for security and think it our duty to strongly oppose state surveillance and violation of our privacy). safety matters. our physical existence matters a great deal to us all. but quality of life matters too. so there are really two big problems with whalen’s argument beyond the tiresome attempt to leverage tragic and costly massacres into an assault on our civil liberties.

    first off, the second amendment interpretation whalen cites dates from 1932, and has since been resoundingly abrogated by constitutional scholars on the left, right, and center. that the amendment was intended to guarantee and individual right to keep and BEAR arms is no longer in dispute, but all is not lost for opponents of individual firearms ownership: they can argue, properly, that urbanization makes the cost of this particular civil liberty exceed its expected benefits, so the amendment should be changed (i don’t agree with that argument, but at least it’s a legitimate strategy).

    the second big problem is the logic of whalen’s arguments: since the first major federal laws restricting the sale, use, and ownership of firearms (the gun control act of 1968), congress and state and local authorities passed a succession of laws further restricting firearms ownership and use. the problem then is that in order for whalen’s argument to save lives, all firearms would have to be banned (that, or whalen would be stuck with implying that it’s only the murder of say, more than five or six people or children in a given attack which is unacceptable, not their deaths as such). keep in mind also, that if whalen’s logic were sound, the liberalization of concealed carry laws which affected many states in the 1990s should have resulted in a spike in firearms-related homicides; even atrocities of the sort he cites. it didn’t happen, and there is some evidence (hardly conclusive) that in places where average citizens were thought to be armed, criminals substituted from muggings and robberies into burglary and other non-violent crime. a complete ban may be your thing, but it’s something, again, that i don’t agree with, mainly because although the circumstances under which a firearm can be used for “good” purposes (community defense, hunting, sport, and individual defense) have declined over time due to urbanization, they haven’t disappeared completely. there remain, sadly, circumstances where nothing but a firearm will do for justice. still, that’s a more logically consistent argument to advance than the argument that some measure of additional control (rather than completely getting rid of guns) would achieve a socially valued outcome.

    in sum, a good life was never meant to be risk free or perfectly safe. we accept some risk to our bodies in order that we may live together under the rule of law. i’d personally rather risk being blown up by a terrorist than give up my right to free speech or privacy; especially since i don’t see any evidence that those who have surrendered civil liberties have ever been made safer by that sacrifice.

    • Thomas Jefferson on 11.22.2013 at 8:20 am

      Well said.

  • Thomas Jefferson on 11.22.2013 at 6:12 am

    For those of you to young to remember when JFK was shot may not know that you could buy a gun through the mail but despite this fact we did not have the mass shootings we have today. You could also by a machine gun in those days and the semi auto firearms everyone screams about were available then too. The 1911 which is the prototypical semi automatic handgun went into production in you guessed it 1911. It was the standard issue handgun for our military in every war since then and millions of these firearms remain in the hands private citizens (your grandmother may even have your grandfathers in her dresser drawer) to this day. Many of these have been handed down from generation to generation to generation and therefore, many of these are also not registered but despite this fact these gun do not show up at too many crime scenes.

    The 1968 gun control act has proven to be the biggest cause of increased violent crime in history. The FBI data from the years immediately following the enactment of this law show how violent crime per capita increased rather than decreased across the nation after the law went into effect.

    The next largest cause and effect relationship attributable to gun control is the gun free zone which has become the target of choice for numerous mass murderers.

    Areas of the country with the most strict gun control laws do not necessarily have lower per capita crime rates. In fact, Washington, DC which has some of the most strict gun laws in the country has one of the highest violent crime rates.

    Any honest statistician will tell you that given that most people are not violent criminals, putting more guns in the hands of more people is the best way to curtail crime.

    The other misrepresentation of facts gun control proponent sell is the death statistics story which conveniently ignores proximity to a good trauma facility. For example, you are more likely to die from a gun shot wound incurred in a rural area due to bleeding out but the gun control proponents ignore this cause effect relationship when they report data showing deaths from gun related injuries have been declining in certain cities like Boston. This does not mean fewer people are being shot in Boston per se but rather just that those who do get shot have a better chance of surviving.

    What we really need to do is overturn all these bogus unconstitutional gun laws which if they were enacted to regulate sexual orientation, abortion or free speech would be met with outrage by many of the same people who support gun control and instead develop an educational system that teaches our youth proper muzzle control and other aspect of marksmanship so they grow up to be responsible gun owners who exercise their right to self defense with care and consideration. This is the way is was done for decades before 1968 and we had fewer problems with violent crime as a result.

    Armed society where in each person is made equal by virtue of their right to possess and use an equalizer is a polite society.

  • JT on 11.22.2013 at 7:25 am

    The author needs to check his facts before presenting his opinions.

    Here are some suggestions on what he should have checked:

    - All potential gun owners already undergo a mandatory federal background check, and 48 states (with the exception of Alaska and Vermont, which already have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the world) already subject potential gun owners to an additional state background check. Calling for “action” to bring about something that already exists doesn’t make any sense.

    - The Brady Bill did not ban assault weapons. That was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (a section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994). This ban had no effect whatsoever on violent crime rates in the United States. In fact the Columbine attack took place right in the middle of the FAWB. Is the author unaware of the damage he is doing to his academic reputation by failing to perform even Wikipedia-level research before publishing?

    - New taxes will do nothing to prevent criminals or the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. They will simply make it more expensive for law-abiding citizens to own the firearms.

    - The author fails to explain how eliminating “multi-round ammunition clips” would do anything to keep firearms out of the hands of violently mentally ill individuals. Even such individuals are perfectly capable of loading a firearm’s magazine by hand one round at a time.

    Mr. Whalen’s assertions are laughable. BU Today’s failure to recognize that this article has no basis in reality before publishing it is shameful. Two reputations were ruined today.

    • Alicia Borth on 11.22.2013 at 11:43 am

      I agree completely with this comment. I was thinking the exact same thing when I read it. The article is filled with the common misconceptions going around the media today and very little verifiable facts.

  • Facts and Logic on 11.22.2013 at 7:47 am

    Yawn.

    Yet another lame piece by yet another “opinionated” writer that lacks knowledge about guns or the 2nd amendment. You fail to recognize that neither Kennedy’s shooting or the Navy Yard shooting involved semi automatics, but rather common firearms gun control advocates deem as “safe”. Not to mention the fact that the Navy Yard shooter as a Navy veteran and a govt contractor had already passed stringent background checks, even when buying the gun, so more checks wouldn’t have stopped him.

    Furthermore, according to the FBI (Expanded Homicide Data, Table 8 ) gun related homicide has been on a declining trend nationally for years, despite the expiration of the ban on so called “assault weapons” having expired and no new laws on the national level. In fact, these so called “assault weapons” that people like the writer fear so, often based on lack of knowledge, fear, and disinfo) are shown to be used in no more than a minute fraction of gun homicides each year.

    Those of us who do the research and check the facts get it – it’s not a gun problem we have, it’s a people problem we have. The sooner more of you realize that, the sooner we can take steps to lower these tragedies. Until then – keep relying on emotion, knee jerk reactions and hysteria…it’ll get us nowhere.

  • Travis McGee on 11.22.2013 at 8:07 am

    This guy is not happy enough upsetting the gun groups, he had to throw the Cubs under the bus too. Two types of fans I tend not to disturb.

  • David Keough on 11.22.2013 at 8:42 am

    While it is sad to have any gun related death. “A mandatory federal and state background check for all potential gun owners” Criminals like those who assassinated JFK or Robert Kennedy do NOT apply for guns or gun permits! How to reduce crime/criminals? How about reducing crime by banning violent movies/music. Teaching our children to love one another as a thought?..

  • Mark on 11.22.2013 at 9:37 am

    Interesting how simple, effective gun control measures are now controversial in this society. The effect of the ghoulish Ayn Rand and her followers? There is nothing so sweet to human ears than permission to be selfish.

    • Thomas Jefferson on 11.22.2013 at 11:05 am

      Ayn Rand was not even born when this nation was founded and the bill of rights written. Your insistence on infringing on my right to defend my life effectively is perhaps the most selfish thing I have read her today. A person cannot have a right to life without the right to defend said life.

    • JT on 11.22.2013 at 12:28 pm

      What’s really interesting is how some people view it as “selfish” when individual citizens stand up for their natural rights as human beings but somehow “unselfish” when politicians and others violate the people’s rights for personal gain. And we’ve always been at war with Eastasia! :D

  • ErikO on 11.22.2013 at 9:39 am

    It never stops amazing me how someone can go from an event that happened at the end of a WW2 Italian rifle and try to make the case to ban all modern semi-automatics. The NFA of 1932 was an excuse to abridge our access to firearms; pistols of all natures would ahve been on that bill if women’s suffrage had not gotten women directly involved in the cause for their own self-defense. Eleanor Roosevelt herself made adding handguns to the NFA untenable. After JFK, RFK and MLK were killed, it ‘made sense’ to tighten up firearms laws because ‘safety’.

    More laws restricting firearms availability are not the answer. Crime’s decline from 1993 to 2007 slowed which is when crime should have dropped sharply if the Brady Act had any effect on crimes committed with firearms. In fact, columbine happened DURING the assault weapons ban.

  • Kinder Surprise Associate on 11.22.2013 at 9:40 am

    In the United States, the FDA reissued their ban on the import and sale of Kinder Surprise chocolate treats. After all, any ‘confectionary product with a non-nutritive object,’ especially one that could be ingested by children and be a choking hazard, is far too great a danger to American society.

    In the United States, I can buy a semi-automatic AK47–a weapon that has slaughtered innocent children.

    #LudicrousContradictions

    • Ken on 11.22.2013 at 2:40 pm

      Hi Kinder, surprise. There is no such thing as a “semi-automatic AK47.”

      Use your words.

  • Samuel on 11.22.2013 at 9:40 am

    I have issue with gun control for one reason above all, and that is if someone wants to perpetrate a violent crime with a firearm, the legality of the firearm is not going to stop them. And related to that, If someone is mentally ill, they are going to also have violent outbursts whether or not it’s acted upon with a firearm or not. Gun control limits law abiding citizens, which can include people with mental issues, I will admit. So instead of limiting what guns, limit who can buy guns. Also, increase the resources provided to federal task forces charged with tracking down illegal gun distribution. That is what is going to prevent them from getting into the hands of many criminals.

    And as a general note on society: our treatment of the mentally I’ll is atrocious. Many large scale shootings are done by people who likely had or did have mental illness, but were not properly treated, either because it was too expensive or the family did not allow it to happen because of the stigma of mental illness. Proper treatment will limit violent outbursts, whether they are with a gun or not.

    Guns are innanimate objects, albeit dangerous innanimate objects. It’s the human element that’s the most dangerous however. So limit the people who can legally purchase firearms to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands. Be more proactive on tracking down illegal guns. And provide better care for those with a metal propensity to violence. Attack the problem at the roots instead of just trimming it at the top.

  • Trent Steele on 11.22.2013 at 9:53 am

    It is so very frustrating that people on both sides of this argument go to the extreme ends of the debate and refuse to find any middle ground. Firstly, I don’t think it is “tiresome” to try to prevent and avoid tragic and costly massacres. The article was not about leveraging the pain of the Newtown massacre into a universal ban of all firearms. Possibly restricting gun access to mentally unstable individuals is a good thing. I strongly disagree with the argument that arming everyone makes us all safer. Why not have gun vending machines on street corners? Why not arm all students so shooters will think twice before attempting something in a school? Does my right to bear arms logically extend to nuclear weapons? At some point don’t we draw the line between an anachronistic constitutional provision and common sense? The Constitution is a brilliant and well thought out document to be sure. But we amend it when it no longer suits the time we live in. Did our founding fathers foresee the rise of women in society? It was changed to give women the right to vote. Did they provide clear guidelines that slavery was not really the way to go? So it was changed. Did they know about rocket launchers, nuclear warheads, and machine guns? I think these relatively recent developments need to be addressed.

    I’m not saying that we ban all firearms. But I think it is perhaps too easy to obtain the types of weapons that are designed to kill 10-20 (or more) people at one time. You have a right to protect yourself. But how many burglars are going to break into your house on any given night? How many deer do you need to shoot on any given hunting trip? Maybe we can all agree that as a society we should make it harder for people to kill each other on a mass scale just a little bit harder. I’m not sanctioning the killing of 5-6 people as “ok”, but I would much prefer 5-6 over 10-20.

    Firearms convey great power. Something with great power should only go to those who are responsible. It may be hard to assess “responsibility” as a concept, but it is something that we should try to do.

    • Feltre on 11.22.2013 at 2:00 pm

      Let’s take New York’s 7 round magazine limit as an example. It is entirely reasonable to say that that restriction might mean you die in a home invasion by 2 armed persons. You can’t assume that one shot, even an accurate one, will stop a bad guy. Add to that that your accuracy in that situation will be bad anyway, you will be adrenalin pumped, it may be dark, etc and you may need 5 or 6 shots to stop the first one. If your last shot doesn’t stop the second guy, you are dead. So the only “reasonable” answer to how many rounds do you need in the magazine is: Just one more than it takes to save your life. I am glad that so many State legislatures have looked into their crystal balls and determined exactly what that number is.

    • Ken on 11.22.2013 at 2:38 pm

      Trent, the article called for a ban on “multiround clips,” which if I assume means, multiround magazines. This basically would ban almost all firearms, except perhaps for a few antiques and replicas of antiques.

      He’s not saying ban all firearms. He’s saying, ban about 99.99% of them.

    • DM on 11.24.2013 at 5:27 pm

      There is already “middle ground” on this subject; The Second Amendment to the Constitution of The United States.

      • littlemike on 11.26.2013 at 1:54 pm

        That is correct. And in case hyperbole-crazed Trent Steele didn’t know it, the right to keep and BEAR arms would only extend to nuclear weapons if someone were to invent one that could be holstered or shoulder carried by an individual, because that what “bear” means. I can’t carry a nuclear weapon, a tank, a cruise missile, or a submarine, but I can dang well carry a Glock, as is my right.

    • DanDan on 11.26.2013 at 4:19 pm

      There is a process for amending the Constitution. That involves a 2/3 majority and ratification by the States. That is the proper method for change. In the case of the right for women to vote, that change was widely supported, and an amendment was passed. Most gun control proposals do not enjoy enough support for a change to the Constitution to occur. As far as I know, no one has ever proposed such an amendment to congress.
      I agree with your statement that “Something with great power should only go to those who are responsible.” Unfortunately because it is difficult to ascertain who is responsible and who is not, most laws aim to cater to the least responsible among us. No one proposes laws that say, “Irresponsible people can’t own 30 round magazines” or “evil people can’t own semi automatic rifles.” Instead laws assume that everyone is evil and irresponsible and they want no one to own these weapons. There are already laws that prohibit felons from owning guns, there are already laws that make it a crime to sell a gun to a known criminal. But since these are not stopping 100% of crimes, certain people push for more regulation.

  • Jame Wessels on 11.22.2013 at 9:58 am

    Tommy J,
    It sounds like you had too many bowls of Bill O’Reilly this morning. Surely there are no other reasons for an increase in violent crime after 1968! If I wanted to see this type of “correlation” instead of “causation”, I’d turn on Fox News more often. But I digress. I’m sure the rampant rise in drugs and gang culture had nothing to do with what you’re alluding to…

  • James on 11.22.2013 at 10:00 am

    Dear Thomas,

    #1.”A mandatory federal and state background check for all potential gun owners.” – Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown, and Navy Yard guns all went through a background check. That did not stop it.
    #2.”A revival of the Brady Bill, which banned assault weapons.” – ‘Assault Weapons’ as per the definition of the last ban and current bans is 100% cosmetically based. You honestly believe that banning what accessories can be attached to a gun that contribute 0% to the guns lethality is going to lower crime or stop shootings?
    #3.”New federal, state, and local tax levies on the sales of guns and ammunition.” – So all you want FURTHER increase the price of guns and ammunition which will only hurt law abiding people. Criminals don’t care how much we pay for guns when they steal them.
    #4.”The elimination of multiround ammunition clips.” – Single shot guns for everyone? Really? I am sure that will not harm someone trying to defend their home. ‘Oh, one second Mr. Burgler, I missed. Bare with me while I reload.’

    “I know many gun owners may not be happy with my suggestions, but the last time I checked, the Second Amendment called for a well-regulated militia, not for providing deranged individuals a license to kill.” – Instead of working WITH gun owners on compromises that we can all agree on, you are simply blinded by your hatred for certain objects and lifestyles you do not understand. No one is arguing giving people a license to kill. Gun owners are simply saying, enough is enough, pass laws which hurt criminals NOT law abiding citizens.

    Thank you for your time.
    James

    • Ken on 11.22.2013 at 2:35 pm

      I also chuckled at the tax idea. If there’s one thing serial murderers are, it’s frugal. This will clearly deter them.

  • Tim on 11.22.2013 at 10:51 am

    I think the reason that this article is terribly inaccurate and biased has been well Stated by several other I just wanted to point out the ridiculousness of banning a multiround clip. Just for some context. Nearly Every modern firearm going back to prior to the civil war has the ability to load more than one round. Although the writer of this article lacks the ability to understand the background of anyone outside his liberal urban circle there are those in this country to whom a gun is not a weapon or for sport. It is a tool, something they use everyday to complete day to day tasks, gather, food kill varmint. Forcing those people to use a revolutionary war era weapons, while allowing criminals continuing access to the large semi automatic arsenal of illegal weapons in circulation is insane in its inefficacy

  • Peter on 11.22.2013 at 10:56 am

    Last time I checked, the Constitution does not require that we be in a Militia to own firearms.

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

    The Supreme Court recently confirmed this point.

  • Shane on 11.22.2013 at 11:35 am

    I won’t reiterate the numerous inaccuracies in Mr. Whalen’s clearly uninformed piece, except one: a “clip” is not the same as a “magazine,” and not knowing the difference will immediately discredit you in the eyes of any half-educated 2nd amendment supporter.

    To Trent Steele, who asked the “where does it stop?” kind of question — even going so far as to ludicrously suggest that gun owners might want to their rights to extend to nuclear weapons — you are correct in your assertion that the Constitution has been amended to provide for circumstances which were unforeseen by its authors. But, while they did not know about “rocket launchers, nuclear warheads, and machine guns,” the 2nd Amendment has been revisited and upheld time and time again since its enactment, and I encourage you to read the Supreme Court decisions of both the Heller case from 2008 as well as the United States vs. Miller case from 1939.

    In Miller — and upheld in Heller — the interpretation was that the amendment protects the people’s right to keep and bear the arms of a standard infantry soldier, of the type in common use at the time. By 1939 machine guns had been in standard use for over 50 years, and infantry weapons such as the Thompson submachine gun had been around for over 30 years. The Supreme Court was certainly aware of these technological advancements by this time.

    • Bill on 11.22.2013 at 8:42 pm

      What else would one expect the author to write regarding the subject of gun control after his rant on “tea partyers” ? I refer to “The Tea Partyers Are Arrogant Elitists.” Opinion Page, US News & World Report, October 2, 2010. by Thomas Whalen. It is obvious that we are sheep and must be lead by the likes of Thomas.

  • Joe on 11.22.2013 at 12:11 pm

    Many hundreds more children died last year in backyard swimming pools than by gunfire. Sad no one cares about these children, and that far less effort is being given to prevent such deaths. Not as exciting, I guess.

  • student on 11.22.2013 at 12:36 pm

    JFK was a lifetime member of NRA.

    “By calling attention to a well-regulated militia for the security of the Nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fear of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the 2nd amendment, will ever be a major danger to our Nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic military-civilian relationship, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the 2nd Amendment will always be important.”- JFK

  • Kirk on 11.22.2013 at 1:09 pm

    For all of you that don’t know, the founding fathers and several laws passed since, find that all able bodied “men” over the age of 18 are part of the militia in the United States. I say “men”, because it is only recently that the U.S. Military has allowed women to be in combat roles and the laws that were passed said “All able bodied men”. The founding fathers did not expect the United States to maintain a standing army. In fact, they completely opposed that idea, due to the possibility of a military tyranny arising. Thus, it was the DUTY of all Americans to be ready to stand in defense of the country, thus all Americans are part of the “unorganized” militia. The reason for “the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”, is because they did not expect the government to levy such oppressive taxation to keep the standing army running, so each individual would need to have their own weapon to bring to the fight in case the country came under attack. We now have a standing army (against the constitution), but that does not mean that the rights of the People can be infringed, because we still need to protect this great nation. There is still the danger of a military tyranny (though I believe the danger stems more from persons not affiliated with the military). There are still countries in the world that hate the United States and would love nothing more than to see our country and its people wiped out or under their rule. As long as their are humans on this planet, there will be a need for people to defend themselves and there will be a need for the people of this country to defend themselves from internal and external enemies. Out country and our freedom is an affront to tyrants the world over, and they are just biding their time till the day comes when our people cannot defend themselves.

  • Abraham Collins on 11.22.2013 at 2:26 pm

    “Well regulated” means properly equipped, not government intrusion. We are ALL militia, as Tench Coxe said in the late 18th century.

  • Ken on 11.22.2013 at 2:29 pm

    I’m of course shocked (SHOCKED!) that in reading a call for gun restrictions, I find a comical level of firearm illiteracy. There is a strong correlation between not understanding how a gun works and calling for its abolition.

    By definition, an assault weapon is a fully automatic weapon. These are already illegal for most people, and have been since 1934. With good reason: automatic weapons actually are designed for waging war.

    The so-called “assault weapons ban” did not affect anything having to do with the action, receiver, or barrel of a gun; it covered aesthetic and ergonomic features, such as pistol grips and telescoping buttstocks — both designed for increased accuracy at a distance — hardly a priority in mass-shootings. During the AWB, if one bought a regular rifle, and added ergonomic features like a telescoping buttstock and pistol grip, it then became a weapon of war.

    This was because the AWB targeted the ergonomics (though not the actual lethality) of the AR-15, a weapon sold exclusively to civilians, law enforcement, and even the IRS. Perhaps gun restrictions advocates could ask, if the AR-15 is designed for killing many people quickly, why is it in use by tax collectors?

    The truth is this: the AR-15 is America’s best selling rifle. It works like any other autoloading rifle made in about the past century: it uses the kinetic energy from the last round to chamber the next. That’s why it’s called, *autoloading* or *semi-automatic*. You pull the trigger once, one bullet comes out. Pull it twice, two bullets come out. And so on. Almost all modern guns work this way.

    The AR-15 is popular with hunters, and as a defensive weapon, because it’s reliable, easy to service, has a wide variety of aftermarket modifications, can be rechambered in the field for different purposes (large or small game), and is quite lightweight. Despite being the most popular rifle in America, it’s used in less than 1% of crimes committed with a gun. Shutguns and handguns, neither of which are affected by the Brady proposal, account for more than 95% of gun crimes. In general, an AR-15 is the least likely type of gun to be used in a crime. With good reason: it’s a very well-designed platform of gun.

    Taxes on bullets are of course silly. I wonder how Mr. Whalen imagines a would-be killer could be dissuaded by taxes. If the *cost* of a mass shooting is the issue, perhaps the government could propose a hefty murder tax of $55,000 per victim, which would by far exceed the cost of ammunition, even with a 10,000% tax. Chris Rock’s jokes are cute, but the reality is, most murders are not likely to be deterred by paying a few cents extra for ammunition. While in contrast, a homemaker will be less able to afford to practice her aim. (I’m assuming Mr. Whalen is unaware that ammunition costs are at an all time high, driven in large part by articles like this.)

    And of course, I imagine that by “clip” Mr. Whalen means “magazine,” and I’ll forgive this technical error, because it’s made by gun owners also. What Mr. Whalen seems unaware of is that virtually every gun made today is autoloading, and elimination of magazines (items that hold more than one round of ammunition) would essentially eliminate all modern firearms. A magazine which holds only one round wouldn’t really be a magazine at all. None have so far been invented, and I’m not sure what they would look like.

    Of course, writing a sensationalist fluff piece that somehow links the acts of a few deranged madmen to the availability of an ergonomic buttstock that adjusts for people with big arms is one thing. Actually taking a class on firearm safety, learning what terms mean, and then, well, using your words, requires an academic rigor far beyond the laziness I see in this piece.

    Shame on you for publishing this nonsense. If you aren’t going to make an effort to know of what you speak, please, don’t suffer the world your ignorance.

  • Dean Tolan on 11.22.2013 at 3:11 pm

    Fact, one of the first things the Nazi Party did was gun control.

    • Jonathan on 11.23.2013 at 1:40 am

      Try harder, my friend.
      Germany passed extremely restrictive gun laws,for all Germans, in 1919. Those restrictions were increasingly loosened until 1938, when comprehensive gun legislation was passed. That legislation further loosened many aspects of gun restriction but it did specifically prohibit the ownership of guns by Jewish people. However, this is 5 years AFTER the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed and well after the Jewish people had already suffered numerous ignominies, including loss of citizenship. The prohibition of gun ownership was a result of, not a precursor to, already extensive erosion of many civil liberties. Pro-gun lobbyists frequently make the same ridiculous assertion you are making for the purposes of propaganda. The goal is to equate in people’s minds the very real tyranny suffered by the Jewish people with the perceived, but delusional, tyranny our government is somehow exerting on those who believe there should be no regulation of gun ownership. You and many like you have no idea what real tyranny looks like, though you trumpet the word in every argument.

  • jordan on 11.22.2013 at 4:46 pm

    People please listen. This has been ruled on. There is NO exception. The reference to the militia in the 2A is to state the reason we have the amendment. If you think that reason is no longer applicable, try amednding the constitution (good luck!)

    The 2nd Amendment could literally read “Cheese being necessary for the making of fondue, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  • Dan on 11.23.2013 at 4:44 pm

    How does the author propose a tax on ammunition as deterring violent crime?

    The issue is not the means by which a deranged person commits atrocities (Vlad the Impaler did a great deal of damage using sticks). We have a problem with the identification and treatment of people with mental health issues.

  • Drew on 11.26.2013 at 12:48 pm

    You must live in a Gated, Armed Security protected residence and get driven to work every day by someone with a gun to be this Stupid.

    Gun Control wouldn’t have stopped Oswald. Gun control wouldn’t have stopped Booth.
    Gun control wouldn’t have stopped Hinckley. Gun Control wouldn’t have stopped Sara Jane Moore or Lynette Alice Fromme.

    Gun control won’t stop criminals from having Guns.

    Gun control only exists to remove guns from the Intelligent and Honest Tax Payer that either wishes to only have the means to defend family and self, Target Shoot for Recreation, Hunt for Sport or Food or all of the above.

    Making it required to have a Background Check to buy a gun isn’t unreasonable…but in the case of Sandy Hook…it didn’t make any difference since the Shooter Killed the Gun owner First.

    All potential gun owners already undergo a mandatory federal background check, and 48 states (with the exception of Alaska and Vermont, which already have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the world) already subject potential gun owners to an additional state background check. Calling for “action” to bring about something that already exists doesn’t make any sense.

    - The Brady Bill did not ban assault weapons. That was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 (a section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994). This ban had no effect whatsoever on violent crime rates in the United States. In fact the Columbine attack took place right in the middle of the FAWB. Is the author unaware of the damage he is doing to his academic reputation by failing to perform even Wikipedia-level research before publishing?

    - New taxes will do nothing to prevent criminals or the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. They will simply make it more expensive for law-abiding citizens to own the firearms.

    - The author fails to explain how eliminating “multi-round ammunition clips” would do anything to keep firearms out of the hands of violently mentally ill individuals. Even such individuals are perfectly capable of loading a firearm’s magazine by hand one round at a time.

    And I will use Logical Proof to end the Authors opinion with a brick wall Impact:

    The City of Chicago has Required that all Firearms be registered with the City Police before being brought into the City for them to be considered Legally Possessed. And a Firearm Owners ID Card is required by the State to Purchase and Own any and all Firearms and Ammunition.

    But, In 1982 the City passed an Ordinance that removed the ability of Citizens to Register any type of Firearm purchased after the Ordinance was passed…A DE FACTO Ban on all Firearms UNLESS you had them Registered Before 82, were a Cop, an Armed Security Guard (with State Licenses and Insurance), a State Approved Private Investigator (with State Licenses and Insurance) OR A CRIMINAL.

    From 1983 to 1994 one would assume gun related deaths would decline due to the Firearm BAN in Chicago.

    They didn’t.

    From 1983 to 1994 Per the Chicago Police Departments Own Annual Report Figures…

    There were 6,079 Fire Arm Caused Murders.

    Clearly a Total Ban on Firearms Prevents Death.

  • Kwiemakala on 11.26.2013 at 4:28 pm

    Read the Militia Act of 1903. Every male citizen between the ages of 18 and 45 is a part of the milita, and as such, have the absolute personal right and 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms OF ANY TYPE, and as many as they can afford to buy.

  • JD on 11.26.2013 at 4:58 pm

    after 50 years it is time folks moved passed this. JFK was an OK POTUS at best. Had he lived he would be a footnote in history. I won’t go into the gun control lie that has been pulled apart by others already. gun control is a absolute failure, just like the drug war is.

  • Poor logic on 06.12.2014 at 4:19 pm

    Unfortunately, Mr. Whalen is quite ignorant on the subjects of firearms availability and operation. This is common among those that are the most vocal proponents of “gun control”.

    Some examples:

    Mr. Whalen writes,

    “Here are some suggestions on what can be done:

    (1) ŸA mandatory federal and state background check for all potential gun owners.
    (2) ŸA revival of the Brady Bill, which banned assault weapons.
    Ÿ(3) New federal, state, and local tax levies on the sales of guns and ammunition.
    (4) ŸThe elimination of multiround ammunition clips.”

    Here are the facts:

    (1) Every potential gun buyer already goes through state and federal background checks when purchasing a firearm from a dealer. This is already federal law. Some states allow private parties to carry out firearm transactions without a background check. This is commonly referred to as the “gun show loophole”. The fact is, those states have other laws in place that restrict private sales–permits, licenses, documentation, etc. For example, New Hampshire is considered a “gun friendly” state, as it allows private sales without a federal background check. However, the seller is required to see and document the buyers state ID and state concealed carry license. How does a NH resident get a concealed carry license? He goes through the same state and federal background check required by federal law when purchasing from a dealer.

    (2) What is an “assault weapon”? This was a term originally meant to classify “machine guns” or “fully automatic weapons”. In other words, it meant a gun which fired multiple rounds from pulling the trigger once and holding it down. Fully automatic weapons are heavily restricted at the federal level and many states don’t allow them at all. To get one, a buyer must live in a state that allows them, submit to an extensive (9-month) background check, and pay a hefty $200 tax to the federal government. Oh yea, the buyer also needs to have about $10k in cash to purchase one of these weapons. Clearly, these aren’t purchases being made by criminals. Can you cite one reference of a fully automatic weapon being used in a crime?

    So, what does Mr. Whalen (and other uninformed individuals) mean when he uses “assault weapon”? He means any rifle that looks scary.

    For example, does this look like an assault weapon: http://www.ruger.com/products/mini14RanchRifle/specSheets/5801.html

    Probably not. It’s simply a rifle.

    How about this one: http://www.ruger.com/products/mini14TacticalRifle/specSheets/5846.html

    Ooooo, that one looks scary. Assault weapon!

    In fact, the 2 guns are identical except for cosmetic features. Both are semi-automatic, meaning they fire one round per trigger pull. Both fire the same .223/5.56 ammunition. So, what’s the difference? The first one has a wood stock. The second is black and has an adjustable stock and pistol grip. That’s it. They both shoot the same ammo at the same speed from exactly the same internal mechanics. They use the same magazines. (The first comes with a 5-round magazine and the second comes with a 20-round magazine, but they are interchangeable.) Some people prefer the “tough” look of the “tactical” version. That’s it. They’re the SAME GUN!

    Banning guns because they LOOK like scary machine guns you see in the movies is nonsense. How often do you see a Honda Civic on the road where the owner has added a wing on the back, ground effects, new rims, flames painted, etc.? That car runs exactly the same as any other Honda Civic. It’s all cosmetic. It would be nonsense to ban that car because it looks fast or scary.

    (3) New taxes on guns and ammo??!! On what grounds? How would this stop violence? This implies a moral stance against gun ownership and as such is a clear violation of the “shall not be infringed” part of the 2nd amendment.

    (4) Mr. Whalen’s usage of the term “clip” instead of “magazine” further highlights that he has probably never handled a firearm. In any case, restricting the number of rounds of ammunition in a magazine has little to no effect on gun violence. A bad guy can just carry multiple magazines. If 4 bad guys break into your house, how many rounds should the homeowner be allowed to have at his disposal to defend himself? Who decides that? Again, “shall not be infringed”.

    One more example. Mr. Whalen ends his argument with, “I know many gun owners may not be happy with my suggestions, but the last time I checked, the Second Amendment called for a well-regulated militia, not for providing deranged individuals a license to kill.”

    This is the least informed statement Mr. Whalen makes. First, let’s see the text of the 2nd amendment:

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    “The people” means everyone, just as it does everywhere else in the constitution. A “militia” does not mean a federal armed force. “Well regulated” does not mean regulated by the federal government as we think of the word “regulated” today. It means trained and ready to act.

    Finally, “shall not be infringed” is as clear as can be.

    I’ll stop here, as it should already be clear that the writer is uninformed on the 2nd amendment, federal and state firearms laws, and firearms themselves.

    If gun control activists take the time to understand the facts, the debate simply comes down to whether or not we want to keep the 2nd amendment. As it stands, it gives citizens the right to own firearms without infringement.

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